Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why I Love Genre Shows

This is ostensibly my review of the fantastic new television show based on the graphic series The Walking Dead

and I promise that the review will be in here, but I also wanted to talk about the reason shows such as this,

Star Trek,

 and Battlestar Galactica

are so amazing on more than just a "they're so cool and exciting" level.

I think that a lot of people view genre shows in that vein.  Science Fiction and Fantasy based television shows aren't always given the credit that many of them deserve, credit for being about real issues and taking a hard look at those issues.  They take a hard look at issues that we often have a hard time looking at objectively, either because we disagree so vehemently on them as a society or because they are issues that are just uncomfortable to talk about.

Battlestar Galactica is still the best show ever on television in my opinion.  It is a show that might have taken place in space, far away from our world in both space and time, but that isn't really the point of the show at all.

The show was about what it means to be human, about religion and what religion has the power to make us do and believe, about war and the lengths that we will go if we believe we are faced with our own end, and about all of the social issues that we are dealing with in this place and this time.

Sure, it was a Science Fiction television show, but if you really look at what they were saying, there are deep issues being discussed.

For instance, the show was aired during the Bush era, while we were embroiled in a war that many felt was unjust in Iraq.  The show had a President who got the job through questionable means, who was a religious fundamentalist, who believed that personal liberties could and should be put aside for the "greater good", and yet the President was portrayed as a very likable character, and is generally considered good.

On the other hand, the show has the human characters acting against an occupying force that has a different religion, an occupying force that is ostensibly there for the benefit of those being occupied.  The humans rise up in insurgency and terrorism against the occupiers, and the viewers root for them.  Remember, this show was on the air during the time of the Iraqi war.  The show actually has the viewers rooting for the Iraqi insurgents against the American occupiers!

So the show basically has you sympathizing with Iraqi insurgents as well as sympathizing and rooting for President Bush.  It allows you to look at the other side and perhaps understand where others are coming from regardless of where you stand politically.

Sure, Star Trek is pretty cheesy in a lot of aspects if you go back and watch it now, but look at what the show was saying in the time in which it was on the air.

The show made a real effort to show people from different cultures all working together on the crew of the Enterprise, and the First Officer wasn't even from the same planet!

War and money were outdated concepts for the people of Earth and the other cultures that were a part of the Federation of Planets.

The show featured the first interracial kiss on television!

Meanwhile, in the world at large at the time, we were engaged in the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement.

Sure, Star Trek was a cheesy sci-fi western/adventure show, but it was also very much in response to these issues that the world was dealing with at the time.  As great as The Andy Griffith Show was, they weren't dealing with these issues, and wouldn't have been allowed to if they wanted to.

Sci-Fi and fantasy get to side-step the fact that television that is supposedly for entertainment shouldn't be dealing with those types of troubling issues because genre shows are so otherworldly (for lack of a better term) that there is enough distance from the issues being examined, that it isn't as uncomfortable.

And that brings me to AMC's new television show, The Walking Dead.

There have been three episodes so far, and there are three more until the first season is over.

AMC has already picked up the show for a second season.

Sure, it is a show about Zombies, and if you're into that, you will not be disappointed, but I would argue that it is also about much more.

Obviously it is about survival, but also about what we (as a species) are capable of doing to each other in order to survive.  What horrible, monstrous things are we humans capable of when pushed?

Ultimately, are we really any better than the zombies?

These are some of the issues that the show has posited thus far.

Add to these interesting questions and issues, the fact that the show is exquisitely shot (the pilot was directed by Frank Darabont, he of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile), superbly acted, and the writing is pitch perfect.

I can't think of another time when I was so emotionally invested in a television show, that a moment in the first act of the third episode had me crying.

If you haven't checked out The Walking Dead yet, I hope that you'll consider it.

If you weren't going to watch it because you don't like genre shows, I hope you'll reconsider that as well.  Genre shows might be the only shows that really get to examine the issues, situations, and realities that we need to examine and we discuss, and they do it in a way that allows there to be unbiased and rational discussion, which seems to be impossible in the world as it is stands right now.

Until Next Time, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One in 36 hours as of this writing!

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